Narrow Minds and Bruised Fingers

I’ve encountered—mostly through literature and film—several characters named “Destiny.” In most cases, the name seems oddly in conflict with the haphazard nature of their lives. Recently, I was reminded of another “Destiny” I encountered in passing, this one in the flesh. This one strikes me as the prototypical teenager, a child attempting to break into adulthood while clothed in layer after layer of thick, ill-fitting drama. But for the damage being done to her by living the quintessential soap-opera life, seeing her evolution from afar might be entertaining.

I will admit to unwarranted bias: who names their child Destiny? That act seems to me  a mother’s blatant challenge to the gods, shrieking and shaking her fist and saying, “What do you think you’re gonna do to me, huh?! I’m gonna throw this kid out there with a name that suggests she has a date with fate and I’ll just wait to see what you do about it!” Inevitably, of course, the child grows up in a double-wide trailer surrounded by chickens, living with a permanently unemployed and unemployable mother and an alcoholic father who beats his children to demonstrate his anger at his losses in poker games.

What is it that gives certain names unsavory backstories from the start? I suspect it has to do with the portrayal in literature and on film of characters with those names. Something about those characters’ troubled lives appeals to certain soon-to-be parents; it must have something to do with the parents recognizing themselves or their upbringing in the characters. Their unfortunate children must then live with the label that accompanies their names.

I realize, of course, my comments thus far may be highly offensive to people named Destiny and to people who have friends or family members with that name. To them, I would say “remember, I am just a bigoted nobody, so pay me no heed.” I write, even when my writing exposes me for what I am. It’s a sickness, I think. And there’s no treatment for it.


The strengths and weaknesses of ties between people have been on my mind lately. What, I wonder, causes people to be drawn to specific others? We’re all very similar in so many ways—what unusual aspect of one another so captures our interests that we invest time and emotion and all manner of other personal energy in developing relationships? The question may be best examined by looking at familial ties. In families, the constant closeness with one another must reveal unique, attractive characteristics in other family members. Each member of the family has his or her own peculiar attributes that appeal in some ways to other family members. Though each idiosyncrasy varies significantly from the others, it connects our interests in personal ways.

The same thing that binds family members must apply to others. Somehow, uniquely attractive characteristics of other people come to our attention; almost instantly, a connection develops. And like familial connections, the ties can become frayed over time. Friendships dissolve or explode; romantic entanglements rupture; family ties erode and break. The power of those connections can be as strong monstrous cables that hold up bridges or  as weak as soap bubbles that explode upon contact with a blade of grass. Time seems to have little or no bearing to strength; a short-lived relationship can exceed by thousand-fold the strength of a life-long relationship.

I have lived in Hot Springs Village for almost eight years. During that time, I have experienced the formation and dissolution of several relationships that seemed strong, at first, but withered quickly and finally dissolved. But I have experienced the formation and evolution of a few other relationships that seem destined to form cables. As I look back at my life before I moved here, the number of cable-worthy relationships that developed was tiny, but the number that withered and dissolved is almost too large to count. As we age, I think we become more conscious of the impact of time; it seems to accelerate. Thanks to time, we become less inclined to invest in low-potential relationships, so fewer wither and dissolve. But we invest more time and emotion in a shrinking number of relationships that hold significant promise. Because of those investments, that smaller number yields greater long-term results. Not a large number, but a larger number.

This entire one-sided discussion may be unique to me. It probably is. Never mind what I’ve just written; it’s not for you, it’s for me.


“Plunge.” That is a forceful word. It conveys strength. Raw power. The word actually growls as you get near it and it flexes its enormous muscles. Think of how the word is used: “He plunged a knife into his opponent’s heart.” “The diver plunged into the shark-infested waters.” “Eliza and Bernard took the plunge; the Justice of the Peace presided over their wedding at noon.” “Roberto plunged into the duties of coroner with deadly precision.” I wonder whether anyone has ever named a child “Plunge?” It would not surprise me. I like highly uncommon names. Not names like “John.”


Speaking of powerful. Yesterday, a large, friendly, extremely powerful golden retriever (or some kind of cream-colored retriever) escaped a neighbor’s house. My girlfriend and I tried to corral him so we could return him to the neighbor two houses down. I attempted to grab the dog’s collar, but she was unwilling to have me do it. My ring finger got caught in the collar as she twisted; it felt like she twisted it off my hand. I screamed in pain; I finally extracted my damaged hand from the dog’s collar. The neighbor, aware the dog escaped, drove down to get the dog. I am certain the dog could have bench-pressed me while lifting her owner’s car with the other paw. Jesus! My finger still hurts like hell this morning.


When I speak on the phone to someone I do not know, I have a habit of imagining what the person must look like. I am not quite sure why I do that, but I cannot seem to break the habit. I think it may be a mechanism to enhance the “value” of the person in my mind. The same thing is true when I receive text messages or email messages from people I have not met in person. I make up facial features, hair color, eye color, etc. I’ve discovered I’ve been wrong about their appearances far more often than I’ve been right. When I have imagined blond hair, it has been dark brown. When I’ve imagined brown eyes, they have been blue or hazel. Round face: oval. Et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. In spite of my poor record (known to me because I ultimately come face-to-face with people with whom I’ve spoken on the phone), I still do it. I just need to have an idea of what a person looks like. Am I alone in this tendency to assign appearances to voices or textual messages?


The day is here. Darkness has dissolved into light. Time to commence my daytime activities.

About John Swinburn

"Love not what you are but what you may become."― Miguel de Cervantes
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